Attraction Reviews,  Things to Do

V&A Museum Review (2024): Is It Worth Visiting?

Named after Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, and founded in 1852, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum has over 2.27 million objects in its permanent collection of applied arts, decorative arts, and design. This unique collection is housed in over seven miles of galleries, making it the world’s largest museum in this field… but is it worth visiting the V&A during your own London trip?

Having called London – and more specifically South Kensington, where the V&A is located – home, I’ve been to many of the city’s museums; the V&A is a special one, particularly if you have an interest in the areas of art it covers.

V&A Museum Review Hero

Below you’ll find my own thoughts about the Victoria & Albert Museum and whether I think it’s worth it for visitors. This V&A Museum review should help you decide for your own London trip, but I’m also happy to give extra advice in the comments if you’re still stuck after reading. Let’s wander the galleries together, shall we?

Basics of Visiting the V&A Museum

Before jumping into my specific thoughts and recommendations about visiting The V&A, I thought it might help to cover some of the basics of planning a visit if that’s what you decide to do as part of your London itinerary.

Location & Transport

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London, or “the V&A” as it is affectionately known, is located along Cromwell Road, in South Kensington, just beside the Natural History Museum. You can get to the museum by taking the Tube or bus.

If you take the Tube, it’s a five-minute walk from the South Kensington tube station or a ten-minute stroll from Gloucester Road station. (There’s an underground tunnel that will bring you from South Kensington Underground almost directly to the Museum’s entrance.) If you prefer to travel by bus, you can take 14, 74, 414, C1, N74, and N97 to and from the museum. 

Accessibility Tip: I am trying to make this V&A Museum review as inclusive as possible, so we definitely need to discuss the accessibility of the museum. (I often travel with elderly relatives with mobility issues, so I know how frustrating planning trips can get!) If you need a wheelchair-accessible entrance, go to the one along Exhibition Road. There are lifts in the building. You can even reserve one of the V&A’s wheelchairs if you give them 24 hours’ notice.

Hours, Admission & Tickets

The Victoria & Albert opens seven days a week, from 10am to 5:45pm every day except Friday, on which it closes at 10pm (check out other “Museum Lates,” too), with some galleries only opening after 5:45pm. Admission is free; special exhibitions are ticketed but there is no need to book for general admission to the main collection.

Note: The Theatre and Performance galleries, housed in Rooms 103-106, will be closed until June 2024.

Food Options & Facilities

No review of the V&A Museum would be complete without mentioning its cafe. Museum food isn’t always the most inspiring, but the Victoria & Albert South Kensington excels in this department. There are two options, the Main Cafe and the Garden Cafe, both of which are gorgeous places to dine; if you are only hungry enough to stop by one, the Main Cafe is my top choice.

Designed by William Morris, James Gamble, and Edward Poynter in an opulent Victorian style, the Main Cafe resembles a Parisian cafe. It is beautifully decorated with stained glass windows, frescoes, and mosaics. If you’re lucky, you may even be treated to live piano or harp music whilst dining! Also, the Main Cafe is the world’s first Museum restaurant, dating back to 1856. It offers a decent afternoon tea with great scones, and light lunches.

Whichever you pick, the hours vary: the Main Cafe opens between 10am and 5pm every day, whilst the Garden Cafe only opens on the weekends during winter. (It’s open air.)

Gift Shop & Souvenirs

No museum review is complete without considering an essential stop: the gift shop, of course!

The V&A actually has a very nice shop, selling everything from jewelry to stickers. Given the focus of the museum – decorative arts – you’ll find more practical items on sale than you usually see at a Museum shop. (Things you would actually use, and not just keep around the house to collect dust!)

The items for sale are influenced by the various exhibitions. For example, at the time of writing, there was a Coco Chanel exhibition and the shop was selling Coco Chanel pencils and tote bags.

Pro-tip: If you’re a V&A member (or decide to become one for your visit), you enjoy a 10% discount at the Shop! If you prefer to shop online, you can get 10% off your first purchase if you sign up for the newsletter.

My Experience at the V&A

As I mentioned, I lived in South Kensington for a few years, so have been to the V&A several times, and I’ve always enjoyed browsing around the collections.  

Almost every review of the V&A Museum likes to compare it to The British Museum, so let’s start there. In my opinion, the V&A tends to be less busy than The British Museum, making it more enjoyable to visit. Whilst a very good size, it’s not as large, so it’s much easier to get around. Last but not least, I think its collection is much more accessible to a wider audience (and it’s certainly less controversial).

To be honest, the V&A can sometimes feel like a museum that is not really a museum, if that makes sense. When I think of a museum, antiques and old artifacts dating back thousands of years usually come to mind – which is what you see at the British Museum. There’s nothing wrong with that at all – I’ve always been interested in history myself (and love other historic attractions like Shakespeare’s Globe and the Natural History Museum!), but if you’re traveling with a large group, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and some people can find it a bit boring. 

At the V&A, if you’re not interested in antiquities, you can always browse the fashion, jewelry, or furniture collections, so there will always be something to interest every member of your travel group. In fact, one of my earliest trips to the V&A was to see a collection of ballgowns, something I didn’t associate with museums at that time! I almost felt like I was in a department store! (No wonder the Conde Nast calls the V&A (arguably) London’s “most glamorous” museum.)

V&A Museum Review: Final Thoughts

V&A Museum Review - The V&A John Madejski Garden Topiary
Photo courtesy of Michael Gaylard via Flickr

So, all that said, is the V&A worth it? Should you add it to your London itinerary?

Personally, I say yes, the Victoria & Albert Museum is worth it – with a caveat.

If what comes to mind when you think of museums is ancient artifacts or paintings in galleries, the V&A is quite different from that, and may not be the right London museum for you – especially if you only have a few days in London and can only visit one or two museums.

If, on the other hand, you are culture vulture, love museums and plan to visit several, have a longer time in London, and/or are looking for a less “stuffy” (aka traditional) museum experience, the Victoria & Albert Museum is a great choice, and well worth visiting.

I hope that helps you choose – do you have any other questions about the V&A, visiting the museum, or my review of it? Let me know in the comments below!

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Zhen fell in love with London when she first visited at the age of 4. After that, she was lucky to have the opportunity to live in UK for 11 years, 7 of which were spent in London. (She particularly adores the areas around Kensington, Southwark and Baker Street!) As someone who loves both food and travel – don’t we all? – you can find her sharing her Asian food recipes over at greedygirlgourmet.com.

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